Trope Theory and the Bradley Regress

Synthese 175.3 (2010): 311-326. [doi: 10.1007/s11229-009-9511-2].

Abstract: Trope theory is the view that the world is a world of abstract particular qualities. But if all there is are tropes, how do we account for the truth of propositions ostensibly made true by some concrete particular? A common answer is that concrete particulars are nothing but tropes in compresence. This answer seems vulnerable to an argument (first presented by F. H. Bradley) according to which any attempt to account for the nature of relations will end up either in contradiction, nonsense, or will lead to a vicious infinite regress. I investigate Bradley’s argument and claim that it fails to prove what it sets out to. It fails, I argue, because it does not take all the different ways in which relation and relata may depend on one another into account. If relations are entities that are distinct from yet essentially dependent upon their relata, the Bradleyan problem is solved. We are then free to say that tropes in compresence are what make true propositions ostensibly made true by concrete particulars.

link to published paper here link to preprint here.